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17 December 2013

Georgia's Gay Marriage Ban May Have Inadvertently Legalized Bisexual Bigamy

A story making its way around the internet today is bringing attention to a loophole that could result in bisexual bigamy becoming legal in the state of Georgia.

Last week, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion concerning his state's gay marriage ban and bigamy laws.

Stenehjem's opinion was requested by Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha after a male applied for license to be married to a female, despite holding a legally valid marriage license from another state indicating that he was married to another man [Nowatzki, Mike (13 December 2013). Same-sex marriage prompts legal questions in North Dakota. WDAZ-TV. Retrieved on 17 December 2013.].

The North Dakota Attorney General wrote in his opinion (which can be read here) that since, "an individual’s previously valid same-sex marriage in another state is not legally recognized in North Dakota and he or she may be issued a valid marriage license here."

North Dakota's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage reads as follows, "Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect."

Similar language can be found in Georgia's Constitution.

Article I, Section IV of the Georgia Constitution states, "This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state .

"No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. This state shall not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties' respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship

Much like North Dakota, Georgia does not recognize any same-sex marriage legally performed in another state. Given that the Peach State does not recognize a legally performed same-sex marriage from another state, a bisexual man or a bisexual woman, who is married to an individual of the same sex, can come to Georgia and marry someone of the opposite sex and it's not a crime.

Before any bisexual bigamist starts jumping for joy, remember this:

If an individual who is married to both a man and a woman returns to the state where their same-sex marriage license was issued, it is criminal; and they are guilty of bigamy.